Expenses in Canada: What to Expect
Canadians overall enjoy a relatively low cost of living with a high standard of living. Inflation in Canada has averaged less than 3% a year for the past 10 years. Canadian cities have been ranked as some of the most desirable places in the world to live.
When you move to Canada, your expenses may be different from those you are accustomed to. This section lists some of the common expenses that Canadians budget for. Keep in mind that Canada is a very large country, and costs can vary significantly depending on where you live.
Paying for a place to live is likely to be your biggest expense. Accommodation and related expenses may account for one-fifth to one-half of your total income.
Many people rent their home for their first few years in Canada, which usually costs less than buying a home. The average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Canada in 2005 was $731 per month. This ranged from a low of $472 in Saguenay, Quebec, to a high of $1,052 in Toronto, Ontario.
The average cost of buying a residential home in Canada, as of March 2007, was $299,998. Prices ranged from a low of $140,549 in Regina, Saskatchewan, to a high of $554,941 in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Generally speaking, housing is less expensive outside of cities, whether you rent or buy.
If you rent your home, the cost of some or all utilities may be included in the amount you pay every month. If it’s not, or if you own your home, you will need to set aside money in your budget to cover these essential services.
• Heat — Most homes in Canada are heated by natural gas, oil or electricity. Household heating costs for a family of four in Canada in 2005 averaged $142 per month. (Less in the summer more in the winter)
• Electricity — Your home will also require electricity to power lights, electronic equipment, appliances and air conditioning units. Average monthly household spending on electricity was $92.00. (More in the summer due to the airconditioning.)
• Water — If you live in or near a city, the municipality will charge a fee for providing water and sewage services.
Telephones — Land-line telephone service for Canadian homes is supplied by one of several communications networks. The most basic service starts at around $20 a month, and includes unlimited local calls. You can buy your own telephone, or rent one from the telephone company.
Average monthly household spending on telephone services was $57.00.
Cellular phones — Many Canadians have a cellular (cell), or mobile, phone instead of or in addition to a land-line. Cellular service (also known as wireless service) is available from several providers and you can choose from a wide range of plans. You will need to purchase a phone and pay for the monthly phone service.
While prices can start as low as $10 a month for a basic prepaid plan, the average monthly household spending on cell phones was $34.00.
Cable or satellite television — There is no charge to own and use a television if you are picking up a signal with an aerial antenna. If reception is poor in your area, you may need to purchase cable or satellite service, which will provide better picture quality and a much wider range of channels. There is a monthly fee for such service, and it usually varies depending on the provider, the scope of the package and the options you choose.
Some companies offer basic cable TV packages starting at just under $30 a month. A package that has movie channels, childrens channels and sports channels is normally about 50 to 60$ a month.
Radio — There is no charge to own and operate a radio. However, some cable and satellite services may offer more radio stations and a clearer signal.
Internet — Many Canadians subscribe to an Internet service, which allows them to surf the web or send emails from their home computer. You can purchase Internet service from most cable or telephone companies. Computers with Internet access may be used for free at many public libraries. Some cafes and restaurants provide free wireless Internet access as a service to patrons who bring laptop computers.
The average monthly household spending on Internet services was $20.00. From personal experience, a family that has two or more people spending time on the internet at home, spends much more than this. 20$ to me sounds very conservative.
Education is important to Canadians, and attendance is mandatory for children between the ages of six and 16. All children are eligible to receive free elementary and high school education through the government-funded public education system.
Alternatively, you may choose to send your child to a private school. These schools charge tuition and often require that students wear uniforms, which must also be purchased. Most public schools do not require a uniform. However, you should check with the school.
You may also need to budget for additional expenses such as school supplies, some books, sports equipment and musical instruments.
If anyone in your family is attending post-secondary school (college or university), budgetable expenses also include books and supplies, and possibly residence and meals, in addition to tuition.
Canadian university students enrolled in undergraduate programs paid an average of $4,347 in annual tuition fees for the 2006/07 academic year. International students paid an average of $13,205.
Canadian residents enjoy a healthcare system that is publicly funded. That means that many health services are paid for from taxes and are free to all residents of Canada who hold a provincial health card.
However, not all medical expenses are covered. Depending on the province in which you live, you may have to pay for services such as:
• Dental care
• Eye examinations and prescription eye wear
• Treatment provided by psychologists, chiropractors, physiotherapists, massage therapists, acupuncturists, dietitians and naturopaths
• Cosmetic or elective surgery
Average monthly household spending on healthcare expenses in 2005 was $150. We personally have spend money on all medications. The Doctor's visit may be free...but you still have to pay for medicines. So keep this in mind when budgeting for misc expenses that could crop up. If you take any regular medications, it is better to bring a few months supply along with a prescription from your Doctor abroad. The same medications may not be available here in Canada under the same names, and you will have to come here and see what replacements they have, after consulting a Doctor here.
You will need to budget for necessities like groceries and household cleaning products. Government statistics show that Canadian consumers spend just over 10% of their personal disposable income on food.
Remember to account for personal-care items and clothing. The Canadian climate ranges from very hot in the summer to extremely cold in winter. To be comfortable year-round, you will need several wardrobes. (Heavy coats, thermals,mittens, mufflers, capsand boots in the Winter, lighter jackets, shoes and long sleeve shirts during Spring, short sleeves, sandals and shorts or lighter clothing in the Summer and back to light coats and thicker shoes/light weight boots for Fall)
Average monthly household spending on food in 2005 was $594 and on personal care was $91. Spending on clothing averaged $215 per month.
If you plan to live in a city and will not have a car, you should budget for public transportation. Public transportation in Canada is reliable and safe, and very reasonably priced. You can usually purchase individual fares or a monthly pass. The average price of a monthly transit pass (based on fares in Vancouver, Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and Halifax) was $80.
If you will be buying a motor vehicle, you will need to budget for gasoline, maintenance, and repairs and automobile insurance, as well as the cost of the vehicle itself.
You must have a valid driver’s license to drive a motor vehicle. There is usually a fee to take the driving test to qualify for a Canadian driver’s license.
You do not need a license to own or ride a bicycle, but in many areas wearing a helmet is mandatory.
Overall transportation spending for Canadian households averaged $756 a month in 2005. The cost of gasoline alone accounted for just over $167 of the average monthly household budget.
Canadians purchase a number of different types of insurance. Some are required by law and some are purchased to provide financial security. Some of the most common types are
• Automobile insurance (required to drive a vehicle)
• Property insurance (to protect your home and your belongings from theft or damage)
• Medical insurance (to supplement provincial health coverage)
• Life insurance (to protect your family if anything should happen to you)
• Creditor’s insurance (to cover outstanding debts if you are unable to work)
Many Canadians also include a certain amount in their budget for discretionary spending. This includes entertainment, such as going to a movie theatre or a concert, as well as dining out at restaurants. You should also consider whether you wish to allocate funds for reading materials (newspapers, magazines and books), DVD rentals, club or gym memberships and school expenses such as school supplies, field trips etc (public schools are free but you still pay for misc things in the school, such as pizza day ($2), socials (2 to 6$), etc).
Hope this gives you some idea of what your expenses will be like in Canada. Thanks to RBC where I got this data from.